If you wanted to hear rock 'n' roll in the 50s, you listened to Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley.
It was tough, rebellious, gut-level music. But it was fun, too. It was the right music at the right time.
In the '60s, a generation came together with The Beatles, stood proud with The Stones, got its direction from Bob Dylan, its heart from Jimi Hendrix and its soul from the motor city.
The '70s, on the other hand, got off to a rather bad start. It was beginning to look like rock would reach its 21st birthday only with the aid of a walker. Ironically, the decade often dubbed "the soporific '70s" (thanks in large part to disco and California, not necessarily in that order), would also produce punk, reggae and new wave.
Toward the end of the '70s, a voice emerged that would rival the best the '50s and '60s had to offer. Elvis Costello shook up the '70s with a call to action that spoke to the "new age."
With Trust, his sixth album in a little more than four years, Costello's kid glove has taken a firm hold and there's no indication that he plans to relax that grip.
Not many expected much of the little guy with the Stan Laurel haircut and Buddy Holly hornrims. But a few of us knew, from the start, that it was Costello's glaring personal observations that really made him special.
With Trust, Costello exorcises some old demons and confronts some new ones. Costello has pretty much dumped his angry-young-man stance, but the messages are as urgent as ever. And Costello is at his best when he writes of relationships.
In "White Knuckles," he writes of a relationship where a lot of contact is made, but there are precious few touching moments. "White knuckles on black and blue skin. Didn't mean to hit her, but she kept laughing. White knuckles sweating on the headboard. They never found out what the kisser was for."
In "Big Sister's Clothes," the one cut produced by Costello, he writes about the difference between love and infatuation. "But it's easier to say, 'I love you' than 'yours sincerely', I suppose. All little sisters like to try on big sister's clothes."
Costello confronts his own demons on "You'll Never Be A Man." "Are you so superior? Are you in such pain? Are you made out of porcelain? When they made you, they broke the cast. Don't wanna be first, I just want to last."
And the pressures of the last few years are beginning to take their toll. From "Pretty Words:" "Pretty words don't mean much anymore. I don't mean to be mean much anymore. All I see are snapshots, big shots, dead spots, machine slots, mug shots. Till you don't know what's what."
Costello hasn't lost his sense of humor, though, even when dealing with one of his pet peeves, the press. From "Fish 'n' Chip Paper:" "The girl of your dreams would have you up on an underage charge. And the man of the hour is a lifer at large. If you've got something to hide, if you've got something to sell, if you've got somebody's bride you might kiss and tell, or wind up with a fat man in the Hammersmith Hotel. You'd better speak your mind, you won't get a chance later. Yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish 'n' chip paper."
Costello's wordplay trips him up a few times. And a couple of the album's 14 cuts seem like afterthoughts. "Different Finger," a strained attempt at rewriting "Stranger in the House," seems out of place. And "Lovers Walk" strikes me as a kind of hyped-up Ricky Riccardo production number, but I'm warming up to it.
For the most part, Costello has rewarded our trust.